Why have a staff handbook & how to get started
Although it is not a legal requirement to have a Staff Handbook many employers do have a Handbook of some sort or other in order to provide guidance to staff and managers.
I have seen handbooks in all formats but typically they tend to encompass a mixture of the following:
1) Employment policies and procedures covering HR processes;
2) Rules and codes of conduct;
3) Operating procedures.
Whilst there is no reason why you cannot include all of these elements into the same Handbook my advice would be to consider keeping them in separate parts.
Part 1 – General rules and conduct required
Part 2 – HR Policies
Part 3 – Operating Procedures
Part 4 – Health and Safety
Why do we need a Handbook?
Aside from the legal minimum requirements set out below there is no legal requirement to have a Handbook, however it can certainly assist in the better running of your business, can make you a better employer, and avoid unnecessary argument or stress later if you have something in writing.
If a dispute were to arise with an employee and you find yourself at the Employment Tribunal, it is helpful to be able to produce a relevant policy or procedure in support of your defence. For example, if you dismiss an employee for sending work and customer emails to their own email address, if you have a policy which specifically prohibits this and which states that this is a serious issue that will be dealt with as a disciplinary matter and could result in dismissal, it is going to be easier to justify the reasonableness of your decision to the Employment Tribunal in an unfair dismissal case.
As well as helping to resolve disputes with employees, having a comprehensive Handbook can assist with regards to your liabilities in other areas, such as whistleblowing, bribery and general compliance with relevant laws and regulations in your particular area of business.
What are the legal minimum requirements?
As an employer you are legally required to have the following in place and available for employees:
1) Disciplinary procedure and rules;
2) Grievance procedure;
3) Health and Safety Statement – if you employ 5 or more people you must have a written statement setting out general health and safety.
These minimum requirements can be contained in the employee’s contract, but it is advisable to refer to them in the employment contract but have the actual procedures separately.
Getting started with your Handbook
Many businesses have the intention of creating a Handbook, but the task seems like a mammoth one and they never actually get started.
The other scenario that arises is that there is an existing Handbook, but it has become so out of date or unwieldy that non-one can face tackling it.
My top tip for getting started with a staff handbook is to get an empty ring binder or folder and/or an empty folder saved in your documents on your computer or system and label it ‘Staff Handbook’. Once you have this you can start adding policies and procedures as they arise or when you have time.
If you are ready to implement something now, then write down the key policies or issues that you want to cover in the Handbook and tackle these first.
I do not recommend that you put your Handbook into one single word (or other) document. The reason for this is it can become very difficult to edit and format if you need to make changes. The way in which I work is to create individual policies and procedures saved as separate documents in one folder with an index.
Printed v Online version
In my opinion having a folder printed somewhere in the office for ease of access as well as an online/electronic version saved on your system or portal is the best option. The more formats and readily available it is the more likely that managers and staff will consult it.
Contrary to popular belief your handbook should not be a contractual document and should be separate from the employee contracts.
I have seen a number of employers who have include their Handbook as an attachment to the employee contract and state clearly that it forms part of the employee’s terms of employment. Whilst this is legally fine it can create unnecessary burden for you as you are then bound to follow the rules and processes in the Handbook to the letter or face a breach of contract claim.
This can be particularly difficult when your contractual handbook contains the disciplinary procedure and you want to vary the process you follow in a particular case. Also, if you want to change the content of the Handbook it can be more difficult to do so.
The best practice, if you are able, is to have a full Staff Handbook with the three or four parts including all policies, rules and procedures in full, and then have a mini-handbook which summarises the key day to day information that staff will require. This can then be printed and handed to all staff, and at the back of the mini handbook I include an index for the full staff handbook and a note on where staff can access the full handbook.
This way you can summarise the key information that is of most importance on a day to day basis and it is in a format that staff are likely to read and keep to hand throughout their employment.
Examples of Policies/Procedures to include in your staff Handbook
|Clocking In and Recording Hours Policy|
|Sickness Absence Policy|
|Anti-corruption and Bribery policy|
|Equal Opportunities Policy|
|Anti-harassment and bullying|
|Social Media Policy|
|IT and Communications System Policy|
|Fair Processing Notice (employee data)|
|Data Protection Policy|
|Substance Misuse Policy|
|Stress at work policy|
|Health and Safety Policy|
|Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy|
|Time off for training policy|
|Time off for public duties policy|
|Career break policy|
|Flexible working policy|
|Compassionate leave policy|
|Time off for dependents policy|
|Parental Leave policy|
|Shared parental leave policy (adoption & birth)|
|Time off for antenatal appointments|
|Time off for adoption appointments|
|Bring your own device to work policy|
This is a comprehensive list of some of the policies/procedures that you can include, they may not all be relevant for your business, and if you are just starting out you may want to add them gradually.
Get someone else to do it for you!
We are able to provide you with a Handbook, Policies, Procedures and a Mini Handbook to suit your needs and budget.
The benefit of getting us to prepare it for you is that we can advise you along the way, you can be assured that it is legally compliant, and you don’t have to spend hours drafting it and worrying about the content, instead you can get on with the business of your business!
If you would like a quote or to discuss your own requirements, please get in touch with me:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 01983 897003, 023 8098 2006 or 01722 653001
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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.
The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.
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